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Spartans cap series with 9-2 victory against Penn State

May 19, 2012
Sophomore pitcher David Garner pitches the ball during the game against Penn State on May 19, 2012 at McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field. The Spartans beat Penn State 9-2. Julia Nagy/The State News
Sophomore pitcher David Garner pitches the ball during the game against Penn State on May 19, 2012 at McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field. The Spartans beat Penn State 9-2. Julia Nagy/The State News —
Photo by Julia Nagy | and Julia Nagy The State News

After late game homers cost the MSU baseball team a pair of games Thursday and Friday, the Spartans reversed their fortunes on Senior Day at McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field on Saturday against Penn State.

MSU (35-19 overall, 13-11 Big Ten) rode a nine strikeout performance by sophomore pitcher David Garner to a 9-2 victory in game three of the series with the Nittany Lions. Garner went 6.1 innings allowing three hits and tying his career-high in strikeouts.

“David showed today if he’s in the strike zone, he’s tough to hit,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “If he can keep that pitch count down we feel like he can beat a lot of people.”

Early on, it looked like more of the same for MSU as Penn State (29-25, 15-9) took a two-run lead in the top of the first by way of Joey DeBernardis’ two-run homer. DeBernardis hit a ninth inning jack on Friday to seal the deal for the Nittany Lions in a 6-5 decision.

In the bottom of the second, junior catcher John Martinez and junior designated hitter Jared Hook each reached on base hits before they were driven home on a double by freshman center fielder Anthony Cheky, giving the Spartans a 3-2 advantage early.

MSU didn’t look back from there, as it maintained its lead and cruised through four scoreless innings, mostly thanks to a superb outing by Garner who earned his fifth win of the season.

“Guys are starting to understand that if they really grind it out in the beginning of the ballgame, it could pay dividends later in the ballgame, and so I think that happened today,” Boss said.

After a leadoff single by Cheky in the bottom of the seventh inning, junior second baseman Ryan Jones poked a triple deep into center field to score him. Jones was scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly from junior left fielder Jordan Keur, increasing the MSU lead to 5-2.

Jones, who was two-for-four with three runs batted in on the day, would come up big again for MSU in the bottom of the eighth.

Martinez brought home senior shortstop Justin Scanlon, who reached earlier on a base hit, with a single of his own to begin the scoring in the inning. Cheky was walked, and Jones was there with another huge extra base hit — this time a two-RBI double.

Keur scored senior pinch hitter Andrew Carpenter later in the inning on a single, which concluded a four-run eighth.

“This was a good ballgame,” Jones said. “We played good D and threw the ball pretty well, not as good as what we wanted, but we got timely hitting at the end and got something rolling for next week.”

The Spartans entered the weekend optimistic about earning the No. 2 seed and first-round bye in next weeks Big Ten Tournament, but those hopes were washed away after they dropped the first two games of the series.

Now, MSU will either be the No. 4 or 5 seed heading into the tournament in Columbus, Ohio, depending on the outcomes of other conference matchups Saturday.

“I like our chances,” Boss said. “I really like this ballclub, and I think we have a chance to go down and do some things.”

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